Jul 25, 2009 11:05am
Re: edgy Dead? looking for more of what I like...
Ok, as promised, for the naysayers: why the Monkees were cool, and possibly the most subversive band of the 60's:
1) straight folks and kids trusted them because they were a primetime TV show marketed for kids. However, they were created by the same team of writers who would, two years later, bring us Easy Rider and other countercultural films.
2) the ad for the casting call asked for "Ben Franks types" and said "must come down for audition". This was a coded message for the early LA hippies. Ben Franks was a popular diner where the kids would go after partying/tripping all night. And "must come down" had that double meaning that only the hippest would understand.
3) Peter Tork was a banjo playing Greenwich Village folkie before relocating to LA. He didn't audition until his friend Stephen Stills was rejected and asked "do you anyone who looks like you but isn't losing his hair and teeth?". So he sent his friend Peter, who got the part.
4) Mike Nesmith was a struggling singer songwriter who was living in his car with his wife and baby whehn he auditioned. However, right around this time, Paul Butterfield recorded his song "Mary Mary" and Linda Ronstandt recorded "Different Drum", so he was on his way to becoming a respected songwriter (but admittedly overplayed his hand by becoming a bit of a big headed loudmouth...perhaps why Zappa liked him so much)
5) Though they weren't the best musicians, they were as good as the average 60's garage band. Still, they had session guys play on the first 2 albums to allow time for filming the show. BUT when told at a meeting that playing on their records would NEVER happen, Nesmith punched a hole in a wall and told boss Don Kirshnir "that could've been your face, motherfucker". They played every note on their third album, Headquarters (another drug reference?). It's a great jangle-pop album with only a couple bad Davy Jones cutsie songs.
6) Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork attended the Monterey Pop festival, trying a little too hard to fit in and prove their hipness status. Embarassing, yes. But they made some friends (the Dead not being one of them...Tork was sent on stage mid-Dead set to tell the kids outside to stop trying to get in for free. Lame. Phil put him in his place).
7) But at Monterey, they got some STP from Owsely, and weeks later shared it at a party that the BEATLES threw them when they toured the UK in summer '67. Both George Harrison and Eric Clapton have mentioned getting off their heads with the Monkees.
8) They asked Hendrix to open for them, which was a good time off stage, but hell for Hendrix onstage. He left after a week, but remained friends with the guys. He attended a solo Nesmith concert a few days before he died in fact.
9) The second (and final) season of the Monkees show (1967-68) is chock full of political and drug in-jokes. In fact, the final episode, written and directed by Micky Dolenz, concerns a giant green plant from outer space that emits smoke that makes people peaceful and groovy. Hmm....
10) Nesmith went to Nashville for a week in 1968, hired the cream of the session crop (many of the same who backed up Dylan and the Byrds Nashville albums) and recorded an album's worth of his best material. Unfrtunately, most of this remained unreleased until various Rhino complilations in the 90's
11) Head. One of the most bizarre films ever made. The Monkees, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson spent a weekend partying at a resort in the desert, leaving a tape recorder running, and spewed ideas for the film into the microphone. The best of the ideas made up the script.
12) Nesmith's 1970-73 solo output (he released 5 fulll albums in that time) are all very rewarding listening. What he described as "acid country".
and their hipness pretty much ends there. Except Nesmith's comedy video "Elephant Parts" from 1981 is pretty damn funny in an SCTV kind of way.
bonus (Dead Related): Rhino Handmade released a 3 CD "Headquarters Sessions" a few years back, documenting the painful but fun gestation of their one fully played album. Lots of odd outtakes, including Peter Tork doing a banjo version of "I Was Born in East Virginia", which has a verse from "Dark Hollow"!!!! Those folkies andd their traditionals....
bonus two (not Dead related): on some days I'd dare say that "Pisces Aquarius Capricorn and Jones" (their fourth album, on which nesmith and Tork play guitar and keyboard, but otherwise is session guys) is among the top 10 albums of the 60's. Definitely their best. Bubblegum psychedelia with adult subject matter: groupies, drugs, suicide, greed...and making it with young Mexican girls.
bonus three: Neil Young plays some classic lead guitar on one of the only listenable Davy Jones songs, "You and I" from the Instant Replay album (1969).
Phew!!! ok. more than 'nuff said.